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| Last Updated:: 27/03/2018

Tamil Nadu - India-based Neutrino Observatory gets environment clearance












In a major development, India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project which suffered multiple delays for over a decade was granted environment clearance by (EC) the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Monday to set up the lab in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district weeks after the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Infra2. 



The INO to be set up in Bodi West Hills on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border in Theni district is one of the largest basic sciences projects in the country that would primarily study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in a 1,200 meters deep cave under a mountain.



The EC has been granted by the Ministry amid strong opposition from the local people as well as environmentalists and political parties in the state. The project which faced multiple hurdles was forced to get a fresh EC after the NGT in March last year put in “abeyance” the clearance granted in 2011 and asked the project proponent to get the National Board for Wild Life approval as well. 



The MoEF, in its order on Monday, has stipulated specific conditions including two key permission for the project to take off while granting the EC. One is the consent to establish and operate to be obtained from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). Also, the INO team has to obtain the necessary forest and National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) clearances as per law. The Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district, Kerala, is situated within five km from the project site. 



“We are happy that we have been granted the EC. But we have to get few more clearances. We are waiting for all the clearances to come,” Prof D Indumathi, a physicist at Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) and one of the spokespersons for the neutrino project told DNA. She said that the application for the NBWL clearance has already been filed. “We are waiting for the clearance,” she said, adding that only after NBWL clearance, they could move the  TNPCB for its consent. 



After the Tamil Nadu State Expert Appraisal Committee in November last year opined that the INO project cannot be apprised under category B of item 8 (a) ‘Building and construction’ projects, the MoEF wanted the EAC (Infra—2) to consider the proposal at central level as a “special case” and that based on built-up area and total area considerations, identified it as a category 8(a) ‘Building and Construction’ project.   



G Sunderrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an NGO, on whose petition the NGT in March last year cancelled the INO’s EC, said that he strongly condemns the fresh EC granted by the ministry to the INO project. “This clearance is illegal, as it has violated the established laws of this country and a categorical order of NGT. While The NGT has said it is category A project in its judgment, the MoEF has still gone ahead and cleared as category B project. No public hearing was conducted and no proper EIA was done. This is anti-constitutional, anti-people and anti-national. We will strongly take this up in the court of law and in the people's court,” he said. 



The EAC, in its meeting on March 5, recommended for the EC after going through the geo-technical investigation report on studies carried out for locating underground laboratory of INO at Pottipuram and deliberating with officials from Defence Research and Development Organisation. The committee also set aside the concerns of radioactivity or leaching of water, besides having no impact of blasting on inhabitation in the vicinity.